United Media

United Media was a large editorial column and comic strip newspaper syndication service based in the United States, owned by the E. W. Scripps Company, that operated from 1978 to 2011. It syndicated 150 comics and editorial columns worldwide. Its core businesses were the United Feature Syndicate and the Newspaper Enterprise Association.

United Media
Formerly United Media Enterprises
Type Print syndication
Founded 1978; 43 years ago (1978), as the merger of United Features and NEA
Defunct 2011; 10 years ago (2011)
Fate Merged into Universal Uclick
Headquarters United States,

Services editorial columns and comic strips
Parent E. W. Scripps Company
Divisions Newspaper Enterprise Association (est. 1902)
United Feature Syndicate (est. 1919)

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E. W. Scripps started his newspaper career in the 1885, and owned 22 newspapers by 1910. In 1897, he created two companies, the Scripps-McRae Press Association and the Scripps News Association. In 1907, he combined a number of news providers into United Press Associations as a rival to Associated Press.

On June 2, 1902, the new Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA), based in Cleveland, Ohio, started as a news report service for different Scripps-owned newspapers. It started selling content to non-Scripps owned newspapers in 1907, and by 1909, it became a more general syndicate, offering comics, pictures and features as well.[1] At that time, it had some 100 features available.[2]

United Feature Syndicate was formed in 1919.[3] It became a dominant player in the syndication market in the early 1930s. In March 1930, United Features acquired the Metropolitan Newspaper Service (ostensibly from the Bell Syndicate).[4][2] And in late February 1931, Scripps acquired the New York World, which controlled the syndication arms of the Pulitzer company: World Feature Service[2] and Press Publishing Co.[4] (which unlike other syndicates were owned by the paper rather than being separate entities). An April 1933 article in Fortune described United Feature as one of the “Big Four” American syndicates (along with King Features Syndicate, Chicago Tribune Syndicate, and the Bell Syndicate).[5] United Features and NEA both became successful distributors of newspaper comics in the 1930s.[6]

In 1972, United Features Syndicate acquired and absorbed the North American Newspaper Alliance and the Bell-McClure Syndicate into its operations.[7]

In May 1978 Scripps merged United Features and NEA to form United Media Enterprises (UM).[8][9]

In 1992, United Media donated the Robert Roy Metz Collection of 83,034 original cartoons by 113 cartoonists to the Billy Ireland Cartoon Library & Museum.

In 1994, Jim Davis’s company, Paws, Inc., purchased the rights to Garfield (including the strips from 1978 to 1993) from United Feature. The strip is currently distributed by Universal Press Syndicate, while rights for the strip remain with Paws.

On June 3, 2010, United Media sold their licensing arm, along with the rights to Peanuts and Dilbert, to Iconix Brand Group.[10][11]

The Scripps Howard News Service (SHNS) (established 1917) was part of United Media; SHNS went defunct in 2013.[12]

On February 24, 2011, United Media struck a distribution deal with Universal Uclick (now known as Andrews McMeel Syndication) for syndication of the company’s 150 comic strip and news features, which became effective on June 1 of that year.[13][14] Of the more than 40 comic strips United Media transferred to Universal Uclick, about 75% of them were United Features strips (as opposed to Newspaper Enterprise Association strips). While United Media effectively ceased to exist,[15] Scripps still maintains copyrights and intellectual property rights.[16][17]

From 1999 until its 2011 takeover by Universal Uclick, United Media used the Comics.com domain to promote their existing syndicated strips as well as promote new strips and the burgeoning realm of webcomics. (Comics.com also featured editorial cartoons, The New Yorker cartoons, Snoopy.com, and Dilbert.com.) The site, however, never worked the way it was planned. As cartoonist and former UM editor of acquisitions and development Ted Rall wrote, Comics.com “was the laughingstock of the industry, full of Javascript gone wild, 404 errors and broken widgets.”[18] According to Rall, outgoing UM President Doug Stern told his employees “that part of the failure of UM was directly attributable to the company’s inability to make money online, that they had tried their best but failed.”[18] Many involved with the company said that was not the case. Universal Uclick/Andrews McMeel Syndication took over the Comics.com domain, which currently redirects to GoComics.com, the web’s largest catalog of syndicated newspaper strips, political cartoons and webcomics, offering free new content every day.

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